Dog Is My Copilot

Vivi and Julia’s nightly viewing of the Sacred YouTube Nativity Video is leading to a number of interesting situations, including the girls’ evolving ability to “play nativity” by reciting the whole goddamn thing. (Is that blasphemous? Can I blaspheme against Google?)

Vivi, of course, can’t say more than a few key phrases, such as “I need a room!” but tonight she took a stab at trying to say, “Son of God.” It came out as “Mun of Dog.”

Crash Helmet

Proving once again the utter bullshit of the claim that baths will calm kids down, the girls held a wet, crazy riot in the bathtub tonight. All was fine until I needed to get them out of the tub, which forced me to interrupt Julia’s insanely fast and intensive chatter and then caution her against jumping up and down in the tub. “Honey, you might slip and pull the shower curtain down on your head and get hurt.”

She crossed her arms, frowned, and looked down, clearly insulted. “But Daddy, that can’t happen.” Just as I opened my mouth to tell her that, yes, in fact it could happen, she brightened up and shouted in a delirious, silly way, “I won’t get hurt because I’m wearing a crash helmet!” I could only laugh. You can’t chasten someone who’s naked as a jaybird but pretending to be wearing a crash helmet.

High Fall

Between the unbelievably beautiful weather – the first of what looks like a week’s worth of sunny, warm days – and the opening (finally!) of a new playground at the park a block away, it was a banner day. Some visual proof…

It’s All Doog

For the past several months, VIvi has been answering state-of-things questions (“How are you? How was your night? Is your diaper okay?” by saying “mine,” her version of fine. Just this week she switched to saying “doog” for “good.” Even cuter.


At dinner every night, Shannon and I try to slow the girls’ plate-hoovering by asking about the “favorite part” of each day. Tuesday night, I asked Vivi first. Mouth jammed with peaches, she looked around the room and then up at the painting of flowers on the wall. “Fowers!” she said. “Your favorite thing was that painting of flowers?” I asked. “Ah-hah,” she said, swallowing one mouthful and going after the next.

Seeing this was a lost cause, I asked Julia. She first gave her usual charming answer – “Everything about today was my favorite!” – but then, when I asked for one thing in particular, pondered for a minute before saying happily, “Mama taking care of me all day.”

That kid has a heart of gold.


Julia is slightly obsessed with her inability to pronounce the word “zero.” She actually can and does say the word correctly, but if she thinks about how to say it, she winds up saying “zewo” instead of “zero.” (I had the same trouble with the word “enemy” when I was about her age.)

To make matters worse (and by “worse” I mean “more entertaining”), she has fallen into the habit of contriving questions to which the only answer is “zero.” A sample from the last week or ten days:

  • How many rain clouds are in the sky?
  • How many cousins came on this walk?
  • How many Mamas came on this walk?
  • How many brothers do I have?
  • How many frogs did we see today?
  • How many dead frogs did we see today?
  • How many cats did we see in the park?
  • How many swings have I been on today?
  • How many times have I been in the bike trailer today?
  • How many desserts will we have at dinner?
  • How many Wise Men did we see at the store?

While Big Sister ponders the nature of absence and nullity, Vivi typically trots along ahead, beside, or behind, singing funny little nonsense songs, investigating things on the sidewalks (good: colorful leaves; bad: goose poop), and occasionally shouting, “Zewo!” to one of Julia’s questions.


Over the weekend, Julia and Genevieve and I went to a small little playground tucked away at the northern end of Sibley Swale Park here in Northfield. It’s a gorgeous setting: ringed by trees but open to the sky, shady but not dark, grassy but not just a field, quiet but not somnolent. The girls love the place. Some days, they like to go up and down the play structure. Other days, like Saturday, they like to swing.
Vivi Swinging
Vivi Swinging
Julia Swinging
Julia Swinging


Standing with the girls at a sidewalk intersection yesterday, I asked them which way we go home, and predictably got two different answers (three, if you count my own preference). So I told Julia that we would decide which way to go by playing a round of “rock, paper, scissors.” She instantly held out her right fist. Surprised, I asked, “Do you know how to play this game?” She smiled and said excitedly, “They played this on Dragon Tales! Ord plays rock, paper, scissors sometimes!” And sure enough, she knew all the combinations and even played a few rounds with me. (She was very easy to beat, though, because she only ever played rock.) Damn you, public television.

Agnels and Parents

It’s a bit hard to see owing to her media and technique (castoff stationery on the kitchen linoleum and a PaperMate in her right fist), but here is Vivi’s rendering of various important entities, including Mama, Daddy, and an “agnel.” As you can see, she spends a lot of time drawing the eyes, and then invariably tries to point at her own eyes with the pen. Not a good idea.
Vivi's Faces

Notably, Julia doesn’t figure in this drawing. (Then again, Vivi’s not a big part of pictures Julia draws…)

Evidence that Vivi Is An Unfit Mother

  1. She often picks up her baby (doll) by grabbing the back of her shirt, with two hands around her neck, or by the foot.
  2. When feeding the baby, she often “misses” the baby’s mouth and pokes the baby in the eye, nose, or forehead with the spoon, bottle, or bit of food.
  3. She frequently comforts the baby by picking it up, cooing softly in her ear, and then shrieking loudly and shaking the baby.
  4. She makes little or no effort to communicate clearly, preferring instead a bizarre pidgin of poorly enunciated words, letters, and numbers, along with a healthy number of regular old yells, grunts, and shrieks (see (3) above).
  5. When it’s time for the baby’s nap, she closes her eyes by manually pressing the eyelids shut.
  6. She often uses a beat-up toy grocery cart as a stroller, sometimes without first removing the food in it.
  7. Nobody’s ever seen her change a diaper.
  8. She herself is still wearing diapers.
  9. She frequently covers the baby’s head with her swaddling blanket.
  10. When she tires of playing with her, she drops the doll face-first on the floor.

Sympathy for the Vivi

Vivi, Vivi, Vivi. She loves doors, doorknobs, locks, keys – all that stuff. Today, in a necessary advancement of her portal-related skills, she locked herself in the bathroom. Shannon immediately called me, but managed to jimmy the door open just after I picked up.

That’s the least of her trubs right now, though. Bedtime is the worst, for everyone. I can feel my heart rate increase around seven, when we start giving her the ten- and five-minute warnings about bedtime, and even Julia often gets edgy. Usually, nowadays, Vivi holds it together pretty well for most of the routine. She says night-night to her mom and sister, sits quietly in my lap for a story or two (not even asking, much, anymore, for a third or fourth or nth story), and then asks for her two nighttime songs: “Doo-Doo Uppa Ba Ba,” which translates into English as “Twinkle Twinkle” (the “uppa ba ba” part is her attempt to say her favorite line, “Up above the world so high”), and “Ba Be Bee Bee,” a.k.a., “Rockabye Baby.”

After hearing those in my mellifluous falsetto, she snuggles into her pile of stuffed animals – including, most importantly, the quartet of Ung, Dub-Ya, Biggie, and Munnie (her silky, her bear, Piggie, and Bunny), and asks for “dewwow” and “ink,” her yellow and pink blankets. I put those over her, and then head for the door. Roundabout the time my hand touches the knob, she starts the screaming, and doesn’t let up for the next ten, fifteen, thirty minutes. As Shannon might have said, lo those many days ago when she still blogged, “Not. Pleasant.”

Today, though, things were worse than usual because, first, she threw her stuffed-animal friends out of bed, and then, after I retrieved them, refused to lie down, saying over and over, “Bet! Bet! Bet!” I was mystified, until, disgusted with me, she patted her bottom and shrieked it at me – she was saying “Wet! Wet!” She’s increasingly interested in potty training, and now suddenly can’t stand to be wet. So while Julia crawled into her own bed, I changed Vivi’s diaper and settled her into her crib again. Five minutes later, she was out.

Vivi, Vivi, Vivi. She is a handful – or two, or four – but I feel for her. Her reach so exceeds her grasp, she can’t help but be mad at the world, and most of us in it.

Having It

In reply to my lovely wife’s plea…

Though this summer has not been the very best one of my life, I’m glad to have lived it, and looking forward to the fall and winter. During these last few golden sunny months, people I know have been diagnosed with cancer but are facing it with enormous strength and will and humor; have been burglarized and horribly sick but, again (what is it with our tough friends?), are dealing with it with laughter and fortitude; have faced unexpected surgery but – that’s right – have persevered.

Sure, China spent billions of dollars on facilities that were used for 14 days of sports competition, in a city where babies die every day in poverty, but great powers have always done stupid things to impress each other, and at least this one didn’t involve killing anyone. Gas and grocery prices have increased astronomically, and while they’re not coming down much, they have generated – I think – some real thinking about how to get America out of our terrible growth-at-all-costs morass. The health care crisis in this country continues to spiral out of control, and might spell doom for my children’s generation (truly, even for my own) if it goes unchecked – but, again, there finally seems to be a modicum of political will to figure out some way to provide here what every other citizen of an advanced society already has.

My draining second job will go on a one-term hiatus between January and May, but then pick up right where it left off in June. Over that time, we can tap our small but big-enough savings account, and I should see a nicely-sized raise at my regular job. I have just as much faith in humankind as I ever did, what with seeing my wife work hard alongside other volunteers to skillfully and rapidly solve an ugly situation at the preschool where my daughter goes. My nieces and nephew are poor minority children with no father and multiple medical and mental-health conditions, but they are better off than many kids in their shoes because they’ve got at least two families – my parents-in-law and my siblings-in-law – who are there for them, literally and figuratively. Economic disparity is everywhere I look, not least here in Northfield, but I’m hopeful that by putting a smart man in the White House this fall, we can start to close the gulf between the have-too-muches and the have-too-littles.

And sure, people buy and build ridiculous houses right around the corner from our place, but those houses don’t necessarily make them happier, and certainly don’t make me unhappy – just amused. It’s all a bit depressing, but I fall back on what I know about history and think about how glad I am that it’s not 1938, or 1908, or 1808, or 1508. Those were some tough times, and I’ll bet the summers of those years sucked a lot more for a lot more people than this one did for us.

And but so what makes me happy these days? My wife, even as she hunts for the clouds behind the silver linings, and especially my two girls. Hearing the younger count impeccably to ten in her squeaky little toddler voice is as wonderful as it is a challenge to tactfully answer the older’s question about where mean people go when they die. I’m also cheered by the wonderful weather, by the promise of a snowy winter, by the return of my favorite sports, by my regular job, by hot coffee… Too many things to list, really, but they sum up every day to making everything worthwhile.